Brother of Rakaia murder-accused takes witness stand in trial

A man has testified about a dramatic late-night dash to try and stop his brother from “beating up” a Canterbury dairy farmer found murdered in his bed the next morning.

Tony Grant Waldron, 29, was discovered dead at his Gardiners Rd, Rakaia farmhouse, 45 minutes south of Christchurch, on September 18, 2019, after failing to show up for 5.30am milking.

After a massive homicide investigation codenamed “Operation Gardiner”, Waldron’s estranged wife Bamber, 35, and her cousin, Joshua Dylan Morris-Bamber, 28, were charged with murder.

They deny murdering Waldron or having any part in his death.

Yesterday, and again today, Isak Morris-Bamber has been giving evidence at his family members’ murder trial at the High Court in Christchurch.

He spoke about hearing that his brother – who he was very close to – was “angry” and heading to Waldron’s rural property late on September 17, 2019.

Panicking, he quickly got dressed, and left his inner Christchurch flat and headed south in his car for the farm. He says he hoped he could beat him there and talk him out of doing anything.

The court heard earlier that Joshua Morris-Bamber allegedly asked his cousin that night: “What is Tony’s address? I need to get some anger out.”

The Crown says Bamber encouraged Morris-Bamber to seriously assault Waldron, who she claimed had been having an affair with her bridesmaid, to “teach him a lesson”.

While en route, Emily Templeton messaged her partner Isak Morris-Bamber at 11.15pm to say: “Do not help him”, and then “Stop him”, before adding seconds later: “No one is going to prison tonight”.

He messaged back with fears that if his brother Joshua had “already started” by the time he got there, then there would be no way he could stop him.

Asked by Crown prosecutor Andrew McRae about what he believed his brother planned to do, Isak Morris-Bamber told the jury he assumed that he was going there “to beat Tony up”.

He then started getting texts from Alanah Bamber.

“I think come home, there is no stopping him,” she messaged him at 11.28pm, the court heard.

“I think he will get in and out cleanly … it’s too late, better one life than two.”

Isak Morris-Bamber decided to return home.

When he got there, he was met by Bamber who allegedly demanded that he delete their text message exchange.

Asked how he felt about that, he told the court: “A little bit scared to be honest.”

But he deleted them and started playing video games to try and calm down.

Waldron that night went to bed about 12.56am after playing online video game Fortnite with a mate.

The Crown alleges that Morris-Bamber drove for about 45 minutes south on SH1 to Waldron’s farm, with cellphone data and CCTV from NZTA cameras plotting his movements.

His car, the Crown says, was captured passing a golf course going in the direction of Gardiners Rd at 12.56am.

The same car is seen passing the same golf course again, heading back to Rakaia, at 1.04am.

With driving time, the Crown says Morris-Bamber had “at least four minutes” at Waldron’s house, which they say was “ample time” to go inside and fatally assault him while he was sleeping.

A post-mortem examination suggests Waldron was struck by a solid weapon at least three times on the side of his head, ear and neck.

Waldron suffered a fractured skull – dislodging a 4cm x 2cm fragment of bone – along with other multiple cracks and a broken jaw.

Morris-Bamber left at speed, the Crown claims, stopping briefly to hide “forensically important items” like the murder weapon and bloodied clothing that he would later allegedly move again. They would never be found, the court heard.

Isak Morris-Bamber also told the court about going to Twizel for Waldron’s funeral.

He recalled leaving a family member’s house late one night, when Bamber stopped him, Templeton, and Morris-Bamber and allegedly said: “I just want you [Joshua] to know that they know you planned to go out there.”

His brother allegedly responded: “The less you know the better.”

Morris-Bamber’s defence counsel Anne Stevens KC put it to Isak Morris-Bamber in cross-examination that when he headed to the farm in a panic that night, it was an assumption on his part that Joshua was “going to bash Tony”, which he agreed.

He accepted he had no information from either of his family members that he was upset with Waldron.

“There’s never been bad blood between Tony and Joshua,” he said.

The trial, before Justice Gerard Nation, continues.

His partner begged him to come home and not get involved.

-By Kurt Bayer

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